Adele Is Queen…What Will It Mean?

  

As we’ve seen in the news in recent years, regime changes can be bloody affairs. And Adele’s takeover of pop music, confirmed by her Grammy Awards coronation in February, won’t be without its collateral victims.

Take a look at the following two lyric excerpts:

L-U-V Madonna!/Y-O-U You wanna?/I see you coming and I don’t wanna know your name/L-U-V Madonna/I see you coming and you’re gonna have to change your game/Y-O-U You wanna?…Give me all your lovin’ give me your love give me all your love today/Give me all your lovin’ give me your love Let’s forget about time and dance our lives away

and:

You know how the time flies/Only yesterday was the time of our lives/We were born and raised in a summer haze/Bound by the surprise of our glory days…Nothing compares, no worries or cares/Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made/Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?/Nevermind I’ll find someone like you/I wish nothing but the best for you, too/Don’t forget me, I begged, I remember you said/Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead

How bizarre that of the two sets of lyrics, one sung by a 21-year-old, the other by a 53-year-old, the lyric of greater depth, gravitas and authenticity belongs to the kid singer. How strange to see a woman well over twice that kid’s age try to stay in the game with a fluff piece that evokes Toni Basil’s mock-cheerleading novelty “Mickey”? And how supremely ironic that Madonna’s lyric taunts: you’re gonna have to change your game. Well, Adele currently holds three of Billboard’s top ten pop slots, with songs that have spent a collective 117 weeks on the chart. Madonna’s “Give Me All Your Luvin'”, aided by massive Super Bowl halftime exposure, peaked at number ten last week, then sank like a proverbial stone to 39 in this, only its third week on the chart. Game over.

And it’s not only, or even primarily, Adele’s songs that have sounded the call of this revolution. Although it helps to be writing and singing songs that stand with pop classics of bygone eras–like “Rolling in the Deep” certainly does and will–it’s that voice that’s the real game-changer. People have already gone under in the wake of it. Like Lana Del Rey.

It seems like just late this morning that a “new” model of pop success was emerging: the DIY approach of uploading your guitar-and-software arrangements onto social media sites and (hopefully) going viral, then getting signed. Instant career. And instant cred–nothing seems more authentic than an artist who was discovered by fans before being discovered by a record label.

Then of course, labels started to see that cred as one more marketable commodity, and muddied the waters. Take the example of Lizzy Grant. She was renamed Lana Del Rey by her manager and her signing to Interscope Records went unannounced for 3 months to keep that “indie” cred intact while she was hyped as the next big thing. That part isn’t uncommon. Her currently ongoing flame-out, though, is atypical, and due in part to the aforementioned regime change. Cred is not as respected a currency as talent all of the sudden. Being a millionaire’s daughter probably hasn’t helped Del Rey in that regard, especially when she’s tried to present herself as a self-made artist who used to live in a trailer park. Regardless, she wasn’t ready prime time. She bombed on SNL in her national TV debut and subsequently postponed a 30-date tour.

In single-handedly raising the bar for talent and substance in pop music, even Adele’s less-than-supermodel-svelte appearance might be to her advantage. In a strange way it just drives home the point to fans that the music’s the thing. The quality of the music matters now–it’s depth, meaning and authenticity of performance–over style, image, artifice. And some artists who have gotten by without those qualities the past few years won’t in the next few. Having been given a whiff of something more real, fans will be sniffing around for fakes.

It will be interesting to see who’s left without a chair when the song stops.

Lady Gaga is safe: despite sharing with Del Rey a fake name and a reliance on a look, she actually has enough musical and especially songwriting talent to remain a mega-star. Plus she actually makes art out of the artifice. It’s actually part of her message, and although only her fans seem to understand she has a message, that’s not a real problem when your fans number in the millions. Britney Spears is more a product of writers and producers, but as long as she continues to work with the best ones in the business she’ll probably keep dropping great dance tracks and making videos people want to see. Ke$ha? She’s shown the ability to at least co-write hit songs time and again, even if she is sort of writing the same song every time. I guess we’ll see if the public tires of that shtick, or if her artistic vision reaches beyond songs about clubbing. If not, in twenty years’ time she might be this era’s KC & The Sunshine Band.

If Adele’s reign marks a shift toward music of greater resonance and meaning, I welcome it. Long live the queen.

And I did it all without shooting fireworks from my boobs!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dave
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 00:15:48

    She really is a gift. I think she’s great and that’s coming from someone whose inclined to hate everything.

    Reply

    • edcyphers
      Mar 01, 2012 @ 01:54:15

      Yeah, and her voice isn’t even to everyone’s taste. And that’s okay. But I think the influence she’ll have will be more positive than negative.

      Reply

  2. Christine Clements
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 08:12:28

    I think she is very talented. I usually do not like modern pop stars. There are several things that intrique me about Adele. The first thing is of course her song writing and singing. The second thing is that she speaks with a very stong, cockney accent (by the way a cockney accent is considered somewhat trashy in England). Lastly, she does not look like your traditonal “pop star” (her love of obscenties when she is on stage is not traditonal either).

    Reply

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